Faculty Profile: Scott Griggs
Published on 19 January 2021
With more than 20 years of experience in community pharmacy, Scott Griggs, Pharm.D., Ph.D., associate professor of pharmacy administration at University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy in St. Louis and assistant director of the University’s Center for Health Outcomes Research and Education, shares his passion and knowledge with students inside and outside the classroom.
He currently coordinates and teaches the University’s Health Systems Management-Financial and Economic Aspects course, as well as two elective courses: Introduction to Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research and Introduction to Pharmacy Entrepreneurship – all focused on the business side of pharmacy and health care. As these environments continue to evolve, Griggs guides students in applying their education to real world problem solving and helps them recognize their potential to excel in an increasingly competitive field.
Q: How has the interprofessional nature of health care changed pharmacy education and the profession overall?
A: Many people think that the profession of pharmacy is about medications, and while that is true, I would argue that pharmacy, today and into the future, is really more about problem solving.
When I was working every day as a pharmacist, I would get five to ten questions that I’d never heard of or even considered before, and I was tasked with determining how to best find the answer.
Traditionally, students in pharmacy school were trained to find answers on their own, but we’re training them differently now. Today, we work in collaborative health care teams, coordinating our efforts with other pharmacists, nurses, physicians, etc., assisted by patient data and technology.
If I have a question on a cancer medication, but I’m not a cancer specialist, I could spend hours trying to find the answer. But, if I look to my network and contact a friend who works within that specialty, I could have the answer in 15 minutes, and the answer would be better for my patient and the rest of the health care team.
Problem solving is about understanding the issue or problem, ascertaining if there is an answer, determining the most efficient way of finding the answer, and then communicating that answer. Because things are moving so quickly in health care, this can be a challenge. As pharmacists, providing value to the system isn’t solely about counting medications or answering simple medication questions. It is about taking our profession to the next level and applying our knowledge to really understand the individual patient, the system, the medications and their costs and much more.
Q: The worlds of health care and pharmacy are continuously evolving. How does this affect your approach to teaching?
A: I think one of the things that is unique about health care and the world in general right now is that things are moving so quickly, and there are so many components, challenges, and issues within the health care professions. There are the medication and treatment sides, but there is also the advocacy side, the financial side and even the political side. Almost daily, there is something new and interesting happening that I can relate to my research and classes, and also use to keep students engaged and updated.
Each day, I bring an item of interest to class, and we discuss the item and why and how it relates to what we are learning. The intention is to make sure the information that students are getting is not just from a textbook or my notes, but from what is happening now in the real world.
Ultimately, what I am trying to do in my teaching and mentoring is help students learn how to make connections with the material they learn in school and apply it in the real world. My hope is that when they embark on their careers, they will continue to think through those processes and apply what they learn outside the classroom.
Q: In light of the evolving health care environment, what have you noticed in regard to changes in students’ interests and how they are approaching their future careers?
A: When I graduated in May 2000 from the University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy, many students went into community pharmacy in large part because that’s where the jobs were and they loved the patient interaction – which is an extremely rewarding part of the job.
Today, the profession of pharmacy is much more competitive so more students are looking at careers outside of community pharmacy. They are doing residencies and looking at avenues like fellowships, graduate school, research, entrepreneurship, management, industry and academia as well as consulting. They are really exploring ways to utilize their skills in new and different ways.
We are seeing a growing number of students who are interested in research because they recognize that the problem solving skills that they will develop will be applicable to any area in health care or pharmacy.
Many students are also looking at the business and clinical sides of pharmacy, as well as research-oriented fellowships. Those interested in the business side are starting a Master of Business Administration program while they are still in pharmacy school and may complete that program with the help of a future employer, because it will be a win-win for both parties.
I think that there is a lot more interest in these areas because students recognize that these are not just important within pharmacy, but also offer a wide range of career options in the broader field of health care.
Q: Your courses focus primarily on the business side of health care and pharmacy. What added benefit do you think this insight provides to students as they plan their careers?
A: In recent years, we’ve seen the number of pharmacy schools grow, and more than ever before, students are being challenged to not just find a job, but find a job that is fulfilling.
Students are looking for job opportunities, career growth, and successful, long-term careers where they can make an impact. I try to help students find what they have a passion for and build their abilities around that.
For students today, it’s all about learning how to problem solve, apply knowledge and adapt. It’s no longer enough to just know the information, students have to be able to apply what they know toward real life instances, and then be able to tweak or change the information to find new solutions.
This approach can be applied to career planning as well. Students can use these skills to anticipate where their future jobs are going to be, and we can help them understand and adapt at any point in the curriculum so they can be successful.
I encourage students coming out of pharmacy school to ask what sets them apart and what gives them an advantage. All pharmacy graduates are going to have very good clinical skills, but, prior to graduation, students need to determine what they are great at and how their passions and interests will set them apart.
Being able to combine clinical knowledge with other skillsets gives students an opportunity not only to find their first job but develop a happy and enjoyable career.